Palisadian Richard McLaren Exhibits Work for the First Time in His Prolific Career at W Hotel
For Palisadian Richard McLaren, 40 years of photographing the world’s most iconic celebrities have gone by in a snap. Now, he’s exhibiting some of his best portraits at the famed W Hotel in Hollywood.
“It’s my first time I’ve ever shown anything like this, the first time I’ve done an exhibition,” McLaren told the Palisadian-Post. “I’ve kept my stuff under wraps. I’ve never sold any of the images in the exhibition. They’ve just been sitting in my house in filing cabinets for 25 years.”
McLaren’s work has been featured in major publications across the globe, including GQ, Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Rolling Stone and more. Today, McLaren’s work is used in major ad campaigns and television promotional materials.
Several months ago, the W Hotel approached McLaren about exhibiting some of his works on the hotel’s first floor.
“I said, ‘Why not?’” McLaren shared. “I wanted to put these pictures up with great stories behind them and just let people enjoy them. I’ve never done a book or anything, but now I’m thinking I should. Over the next few months I may change some of the pictures out in the exhibit to keep it fresh.”
The images on display are massive—50 inches tall and 40 inches wide—and contain some of the most surreal, intimate and imaginative pictures of celebrities ever captured.
McLaren is known for his prolific celebrity portraiture, photographing the likes of Halle Berry, Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, Joaquin Phoenix, Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Sir John Hurt, Colin Ferrell, Patrick Swayze, Marc Anthony, Pierce Brosnan, Heather Graham, Eva Mendes, Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, Gwenyth Paltrow, Zachary Quinto, Jon Bon Jovi, Barry Manilow and Cuba Gooding Jr., to name a scant few.
“I wanted to display them just so people could enjoy them,” McLaren said. “It’s been an incredible career to date, so I wanted to share that with people.”
From humble beginnings as a working-class boy in London, McLaren climbed the ranks of the photographic world with his Pentax camera in hand, at 16 years old joining his first photography agency where his first day on the job would involve oiling up nude female models for a shoot.
“That was one of the many moments I knew I’d found my career,” McLaren joked. “I remember my mom saying to me, ‘You’re not going back there.’”
McLaren honed his skills early under the mentorship of prominent U.K. photographers Brian Aris, Allan Ballard and David Steen, learning every aspect of the industry from lighting and composition to working with the subjects themselves, eventually moving to Los Angeles to be closer to the action.
“I remember David Bailey once told me, ‘Once you know everything, then pack it up.’ I never forgot that quote from him. He was the big star. You’re always experimenting to make sure you bring the best out in that person. You’re always striving for the perfect final result.”
McLaren’s career has provided him with some unforgettable and historical shoots.
“I’d say one of my favorites was Nelson Mandela. I stayed with him in the palace when he was president. I said to him, ‘You must be angry,’ and he said to me, ‘No, I was a terrorist, something had to be done with me.’ It was an amazing experience being there with him.”
During that same time, McLaren also captured a series of Archbishop Desmond Tutu praying in church on the day of his retirement. He later accompanied Paul Simon on his “Graceland” tour, remembering when they sat by the Zambezi river together, and would even later photograph Jean-Claude Van Damme, naked, holding two lion cubs by the scruffs of their necks.
One of his all-time favorite shoots, however, was his 13-hour marathon shoot of Mariah Carey.
“There were four different looks: punk rocker to hippie, with extensive makeup changes. That was a really interesting one because it was such a long shoot, but she was really generous and patient about the whole thing.”
McLaren’s work today includes full-scale campaigns for TV networks including A&E, BBC, ITV, History Channel, CMT, SyFy, Food Network and Comedy Central.
McLaren is also the choice photographer for major companies and organizations including Emirate Airlines, NASCAR, Ford, The National Guard, Chevrolet, Gulfstream, Rolls Royce and Sketchers, developing everything from magazine ads to 150-foot building wraps in the United Arab Emirates.
“I’ve pulled away from celebs over the years,” McLaren said. “I still do celebs when I see the right project, but the big ad campaigns are more challenging, more demanding in what they want technically.”
McLaren also does work for a variety of charities and nonprofits, including UNICEF, Red Cross and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya. Two years ago, McLaren spent a month traveling through rural China to photograph the distinct cultural identities of its people in collaboration with the Chinese government for a book entitled “China: The New Long March.”
When he’s not at his second home in London, jet-setting around the globe or visiting his daughters in New York, McLaren is here in the Palisades, camera in tow, ready to capture that which captures his imagination.
“It’s a great place to live,” McLaren shared. “I’ve always got the camera with me. I’m at the beach, shooting out-of-focus blurry shapes on a crest of water—I’m always out experimenting.”
McLaren is currently doing a series of portraits of migrant fruit pickers on wooden camera negatives shot on glass.
“You process the piece of glass and the image comes out on the glass,” McLaren explained. “It’s really cool. I’m always trying to find something new.”
From photographing Tina Turner in her infinity pool (despite the fact she couldn’t swim) to following a band of Aborigines in the Australian outback, McLaren has seen the world through his camera lens.
“It’s all been done before—nothing new under the sun,” McLaren said with a laugh. “You add your thing to it, your expertise. You try to make it different and better. Every day we shoot, we’re always learning new things.”
McLaren’s exhibit offers a chronology of famous faces over the past four decades, captured with a skill that renders them familiar, candid, even vulnerable. Despite the abundance of celebrity images we have today, most now provided by the celebrities themselves, McLaren’s work stands out more than ever for his ability not merely to capture people, but to capture poignant, distinct moments in time.
“It’s nice to see them up,” McLaren said of the exhibition images. “I’ve always seen them on a computer screen or a contact sheet form. It’s nice to physically see them on a wall for once.
“I’ve been lucky. Blessed. When I look back at it, at my photography,the opportunities that have come my way have been extraordinary. I find photography very easy to do, like a hobby I get paid for. Every day, I wake up and I kick myself, and go, ‘Is this my real job?”
Visit Richard McLaren’s exhibit on display indefinitely on the first floor of the W Hotel in Hollywood, 6250 Hollywood Blvd.
Check out more of McLaren’s work on Instagram @mclarenrichard